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Our Team

Dara Bloom

Associate Professor and Local Foods Extension Specialist

Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences

North Carolina State University

Dara Bloom is an Associate Professor and Local Foods Extension Specialist at NC State University. Dara was inspired by her time doing community gardening on the US/Mexican border to learn about the structure and policies of the larger agri-food system, as well as how community-based projects can enhance local food security. Dara earned her Ph.D. in Rural Sociology at Penn State University, with a focus on the Sociology of Agriculture and Food Systems. Her previous research has revolved around the challenges and opportunities of “scaling up” local food systems, including the interactions between social, environmental, and economic values as alternative movements are incorporated into conventional systems.


Her current work includes providing training to Cooperative Extension agents about developing community-based local food projects that integrate low-resource consumers. She is also involved with several research projects that explore how to strengthen immigrant/refugee communities’ capacity to participate in local food production and preparation; how to connect food pantries with local food sources; how to build relationships between local farmers and childcare centers; and how to understand farmer motivations for selling to low-resource consumers.

Hannah Dankbar

Local Food Program Manager

Agriculture & Natural Resources and Community & Rural Development,

NC State University Extension

Hannah Dankbar is the Local Food Program Manager with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Agriculture and Natural Resources/ Community and Rural Development. Hannah became interested in the important roles communities play in addressing equity in the food system from her time working on community food projects in the Corn Belt. Hannah received an M.S. in Sustainable Agriculture and M.C.R.P. in Community and Regional Planning from Iowa State University where her research focused on agricultural land use policy.

In her role, Hannah contributes to the development and distribution of training materials to build the capacity of NC Cooperative Extension educators and other professionals working on food system development and provides support for new and existing local food programming across North Carolina. Hannah currently co-leads the NC Cooperative Extension Local Food Program Team which brings county agents and campus specialists together to collaborate on projects which advance Extension’s contribution to food system development in North Carolina. 

Dave Lamie

Associate Professor of Agribusiness and Rural Development & Extension Specialist

Agribusiness Extension Program Team, Agricultural Sciences Department,

Sandhill Research and Education

Clemson University

Dr. Lamie has served as the Director of the South Carolina New & Beginning Farmer Program for the past five years, as well as serving several related programs focused on local-regional food system development, food marketing, and community economic development.  


He recently served as the Chair of SERA47, a southeast regional group of Extension and Research professionals working on food systems initiatives; Chair of the SC Food Policy Council; Chair of the Midlands (SC) Local Food Collaborative; and President of the International Community Development Society.  He also serves as Vice President of a European Union-based association focused on the teaching of sustainable development in the life sciences, with a special emphasis on food systems.


He is a tenured professor and Extension Specialist with the Clemson Agribusiness Development Extension Program.

Emma Brinkmeyer

Local Food Program Assistant

Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences

North Carolina State University

Emma Brinkmeyer is the Local Food Program Assistant at NC Cooperative Extension. She holds a Ph.D. in English at Stony Brook University, and has experience teaching composition and literature at the university level. She became interested in local food through working at farm-to-table restaurants in New York City and Carrboro, NC. Emma hopes to continue to use her writing and research skills to help develop and support local food systems.

Eric Bendfeldt

Extension Specialist Community Viability and Community, Local & Regional Food Systems

Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences

Virginia Tech

Eric Bendfeldt is an Extension Specialist for Community Viability with Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech’s Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. Eric provides statewide educational programming for community, local and regional food systems. Eric brings a systems approach and perspective to food systems development that considers values such as soil health, food security, and community viability.


In his extension role, Eric works to build coalitions and partnerships within communities and across the state to capitalize on organizational strengths and leverage resources for greater effectiveness and community good. Eric currently chairs the Virginia Food System Council, serves as co-state coordinator for Virginia’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, and co-leads Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Community, Local and Regional Food Systems Program and Process Team. Having worked in community development and agriculture in Tanzania, East Africa for seven years and Virginia for nineteen years, Eric shares a deep appreciation for the value and importance of food equity and security, water quality, soil health, farm profitability, and sustainability to community and regional economies.

The course series was developed under the leadership of Joanna Massey Lelekacsformer Program Manager for North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Local Food Flagship Program. Joanna is now Director of Education at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. 

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